Fitness trackers have become popular over the past few years and as a Health Coach, many people ask for my thoughts on them. I personally wear one but I often tell people that while they are a good way to track your activity level each day, I would not use it as a weight loss tool. Part of the reason is because some fitness trackers track how many calories you burn, including the amount burned from breathing. Since we all need to breathe, it seems odd that is included in the equation.
Our bodies are complicated machines and calories in/calories out simplifies how the body works. There are many factors that determine how many calories you burn during a workout including the type of exercise you do, the intensity, length of time and the foods you eat. Your body will burn off a piece of chocolate at different rates than a piece of spinach depending on the specific workout. Therefore it isn’t accurate to solely look at how many calories you consume and the amount you burn off.
I recently read this article on today.com about a study that was conducted on the correlation of fitness trackers and weight loss. The study found that people using fitness trackers lost less weight than those that did not wear one. One of the reasons they found is because, as the article states, “Activity trackers … may give some people a false sense of how active they are. ‘Look how active I was today I can eat this cupcake.’” Dr. Adrienne Youdim, at the Center for Weight Loss at Nutrition at the Lasky Clinic in Beverly Hills also said, “There is this psychological shift when patients see calorie counts or the amount of physical activity; they allow themselves to eat more because they have done some sort of physical activity.”
There are many health benefits to staying active so we shouldn’t give that up. Instead, we should reframe the purpose and use of the activity tracker.
Laura B. Folkes is a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) and is a Certified Holistic Health Coach. She supports busy adults to take back control of their eating, successfully navigate life with food intolerances, reduce cravings and/or make sustainable changes without deprivation. After successfully losing 60 pounds and working through her own emotional relationship with food, Laura recognizes there are many factors keeping individuals from sticking to what they know works but it’s her mission to help others overcome these factors to become healthier and happier.
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